Name, age, occupation, income, education level, products purchased... marketers love the little details about customers and prospects so they can hit the bull's eye when marketing to an audience.

However, it's become a challenge to gather these details as people have grown more protective of their personal information because of increasing identity theft and spam.

One way to gather information is through an online survey. Surveys benefit customers feedback can result in improved product or services. They also provide marketers with customer information. The trick is to get people to fill them out.

Providing a reward—such as giving away a freebie, entering names in a drawing for a prize or offering a discount—can help. But such "bribes" may not get you the results that you want. So how can you entice more people to consider filling out your surveys? What can you do to increase the number of completed ones?

Do you know your customers inside out? Is something else making you flip out? Allow 100,000 "MarketingProfs Today" readers to take your upside-down challenge and turn it right side up. Submit your dilemma and receive a complimentary copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing. Survey says, "The book is great!"

This Week's Dilemma

Beating the survey blues

I create questionnaires for my clients to learn about their customers' needs and worries. When customers complete the survey, they receive a discount. However, a disappointing three in 100 complete the survey. What can I do to entice more people to complete surveys and improve those numbers?

—Elisa, Marketing Manager

Previous Dilemma

What loyalty programs keep a marriage happy?

I know the importance of telling customers how important they are to a company. Our company has gotten to the point where we have been in business for a while and have enough customers to implement a loyalty program. What loyalty programs are effective, especially ones that can address local and international customers?

—Karen, Sales Manager

Karen, your peers agreed that as soon as you land customers, you must immediately begin working on keeping them. The best way to go about creating a successful loyalty program is to take the following steps:

  1. Identify repeat customers and compile a database of their behavior.

  2. Reward frequent purchases.

  3. Shape the program according to their interests.

1. Identify repeat customers and compile a database of their behavior

Try to learn from every customer's behavior, but especially focus on those special few who make your company profitable. Build a database, and continue to refine your knowledge of these customers through your analysis of their behavior.

Arry Tanusondjaja, senior data analyst with Adelaide Bank Loyalty, offers two things to consider when entering and implementing a loyalty program:

  1. Identify good and profitable customers: analyze their behaviors and any demographic patterns. Create a model based on these characteristics—you wouldn't want to keep bad customers anyway.

  2. Use the model to identify new customers and create loyalty programs to groom them.

Ways to go about this include:

  • Remembering birthdays and important dates. Send emails or even traditional birthday cards. As they gain your trust, build more information about the customers.

  • Reward frequent purchases/transactions with future discounts or gifts.
  • As they build relations with you, grow and analyze your database to include more behavioral analysis, e.g., the types of goods that the customers buy/like. Use this information for the loyalty gifts. Points are so passé these days, so it's back to old-fashioned sent gifts/vouchers that are useable wherever the customers are.

As somebody who lives outside the US, I get annoyed when companies send me birthday greetings and then reward me with an offer that is only good for US residents. To review, two key points are: 1. Identify good customers and model their characteristics; and 2. Analyze customer behaviors.

Use 1 and 2 to create customized (and manageable) loyalty programs, not just on purchases/transactions, but also through the customer relationship lifecycle with you.

2. Reward frequent purchases

Remember the 80/20 rule: 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. Because these few make up the bulk of your business, you must find ways to reward them for their purchases.

One way is to create a points program that leads to rewards, such as trips, automobiles, discounts and so on. Another way is to invite customers into an elite group, which becomes the core of your loyalty program.

Jack Sims, owner of The Business of Growing Businesses, explains how he takes advantage of the 80/20 rule:

In my experience, I have found that by creating and implementing a "Customer Council" that is made up initially of some of the 20 percent of customers that make up 80 percent of sales or profits creates the most immediate of all loyalty programs. I have created many of these councils for clients of mine, and they work; the benefits are huge.

Stefano Pedron, marketing director at cims, says the right reward depends on the nature of the business model:

We got the best results, in terms of customer loyalty, blending together a points scheme with a strong relationship presidium made of exclusive benefits, welcome call, newsletter and regular call-to-action initiatives.

3. Shape your program according to their interests

In showing your customers, through rewards, that you appreciate their business, be sure that the reward is something they want, not just something you think they want. If you continue to build your database with data on their behavior and analyze what they like and don't like, you'll have a better idea of the right rewards to keep them loyal.

Rob Caswell summarizes the key elements in loyalty programs:

  1. It needs to be cost-effective for the business.

  2. The "prize" needs to be something customers will want to "collect."

  3. It needs to be something accessible, that your clients will use.

Because you are just getting started with a loyalty program, you can start a little smaller than tropical vacations. If your customers purchase product often from you, you could institute a points program based on purchases. These points could be converted into free products or discounts.

With a longer sales cycle, you could start with a quasi-loyalty program. Get in the habit of sending long-time customers anniversary cards, expressing your appreciation for their continued loyalty, and giving them a special offer based on how many years they have been with you.

You see travel, cars and all sorts of items advertised by major credit card companies for loyalty programs. Before you start all this, you have to ask yourself if the loyalty program is designed to attract new business, or retain the customers you have. If you go with the retention approach, I think you will have greater success on the smaller programs—less cost to the company, and building a stronger relationship with your clients.

You've already acquired the customer, so do what you can to keep the customer. Brand loyalty is not what it used to be, and companies must do what they can to avoid making customers feel that they are taken for granted.

Thank you for being loyal, and let us know if you need help.

We're lucky to have loyal MarketingProfs readers who help each other. We thank every one of you. If you're facing a challenge, c'mon and ask—our readers have been great to respond.

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Hank Stroll ( is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.